After the Second World War, American bombers took to the skies over Switzerland on a peaceful mission to capture aerial photos.
After the war had ended, a project was organised between the US and the British to produce a map of the whole of Europe, which would be used for aviation purposes. After the American Embassy approached Switzerland about being involved, the Swiss air force had no objections. But to dispel any suspicions of espionage observers were allowed on board the planes, which were to fly at an altitude between 6000 and 8000 metres over Switzerland.
Cameras replaced weapons
The weapons were dismantled from the bomber planes and two cameras and a viewfinder were installed into the flooring of the aircraft. Flights were to be made from Augsburg in Germany, over Switzerland from west to east and vice versa. A remarkable 4,200 photographs were taken over a period of 34 cloudless days, 530 of these were on one single day in July 1946. The area covered was 17 000 km².
The Swiss observers of the flights noted that the Americans used the most up-to-date technology. While Swiss topography was still working with glass plates, the US used cameras which automatically took 23×23 cm sized pictures. As agreed, the Americans gave the Swiss 64 film rolls with one negative and one positive duplicate each after the project came to an end.
The photos have been made available online by swisstopoexternal link, the Federal Office for Topography.